President Trump pardoned the two ranchers whose re-incarceration sparked the 2016 armed takeover of an Oregon national wildlife refuge.
Dwight and Steven Hammond’s pardon was overdue and unjust according to the White House’s press secretary, Sara Sanders.
“The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West,” said Sanders. “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
The two Hammond brothers were convicted of arson on federal land in 2012 after conducting a controlled burn and served less time than demanded by a 1996 anti-terrorism law.
Later, in 2015, a judge resentenced the Hammond brothers to serve the mandatory minimum sentence of five years which sparked an armed protest in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from Jan 2. to Feb. 11, 2016.
The protest was organized by Ammon Bundy and a dozen others who said the Hammond brothers were victims of federal overreach.
A White House official statement did not refer to the fire as arson, but rather a fire that leaked to a small portion of neighboring land.
“The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land,” said White House. “The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.”
Furthermore, an official from an agriculture advocacy group celebrated the pardon and blasted the decision to force the brothers to return to prison.
“I’ve had great attorneys tell me this is the most malicious prosecution they’ve ever seen,” said the official. “The travesty is what they were tried under. Not whether they started a fire.”
The president has five pardons under his administration that include documentary filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and former Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio.